Bryan did a phone interview with Patricia Sheridan from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May this year, about his life, Breaking Bad and that Bryan thinks cannabis should be legalised.
Season 3 started production last month (hence Bryan’s shaved head at the Emmys) Its expected to premiere March 2010. Like last year Bryan is directing the first episode of the season. The Season 2 DVD has no release date yet but you can pre-order it (at a discounted price of $31.99) from Amazon.com.
Our GALLERY now has a large set of promo photos, stills and ‘behind the scenes’ snaps from both seasons.
Bryan did some funny and interesting interviews this year, worth reading…
Bryan Cranston Interview
by Fred Topel, 23 March 2009 – craveonline.com
Crave Online: What was your favorite stuff to play this season?
Bryan Cranston: In the first season I was only partially clad with my tidy whitey underwear. I’m proud to say that in this next season, I’m completely naked. Absolutely in the buff naked, in the middle of a grocery store, so that was exciting for me.
Crave Online: Does it go to some pretty far places this year?
Bryan Cranston: Amazingly so. What happens is one of my secrets gets exposed. Dean [Norris] gets closer and closer to the truth and it’s only by a twist of fate that he doesn’t find out who he’s been actually hunting for for a long time, right?
Crave Online: Do you want to direct another one?
Bryan Cranston: I do. I really enjoyed it. I can only direct the first episode of a season because I’m in the production, so once production starts, there’s no time to take for the prep week. That’s what you need to be able to take that week to prepare for the show. But I enjoy it. I really do. I also enjoy when it’s over because I sleep probably for four hours a night average. It’s so consuming, so amazingly pressured because you have a finite amount of time to get an incredible amount of work done. And you want to get some cool shots. You don’t just want to do over, over, close-up, close-up, master, master, let’s move on. You really want to stretch and see if you can tell the story in a different way.
Crave Online: Where do you keep your Emmy?
Bryan Cranston: Ah, it’s in my office. I know Aaron Paul grabbed it for a while. He asked me if I could borrow it and take it home. I said sure and he showed me some pictures of how he used it, which is not right. It’s just not right. Actually, he placed it next to the toilet and put a roll of toilet paper on one of the wings. It could hold two roles, one as a backup. I had it at home in Albuquerque and it was in my kitchen. I used it as a banana tree so the bananas wouldn’t get bruised. Right now it’s at home, it’s on my shelf in my office.
Crave Online: How did your Malcolm in the Middle costars react to your Emmy win?
Bryan Cranston: It was an “Oh my God, had we known you had any ability” riles from Jane [Kaczmarek]. Chris Masterson said, “Oh, now you did it.” No, it was nice to hear from them and hear from them again because it’s kind of like they’ve become family you see once a year. You go home for Christmas or something and then you see them. That’s the way it’s become now so I see them a couple times a year, Jane more than anyone else. Yeah, it was fun. I was happy to hear from them.
Crave Online: Could you see Hal breaking bad at some point?
Bryan Cranston: Hal was breaking bad constantly and that’s what made him so fearful is that he lived in fear. That was Hal’s emotional center and that’s where a lot of the comedy stemmed from, his fear of failing at marriage, at parenthood, at his job, at everything. So that manifested in every single way and it was great for comedy to have that happen. Walt, if you did a Ven diagram of the two characters, there’s more similarity than just tidy whitey underwear. Walt also lives in a world where he was numbed by his inability to cope with life. So he imploded and the best way I can describe it is numb. It wasn’t until this diagnosis that automatically blew it off and he can’t control his emotions anymore. Even still, as he goes through feelings of fear and anxiety, it’s still better than numbness and not being alive. I think Walt would be very hard pressed to want to put the genie back in the bottle. I don’t think he would.
Crave Online: How long do you see the series going for?
Bryan Cranston: I would love to have it, because my sense is that it could go five years, maybe six, maybe. But I think there’s an inherently natural end to it. It feels that way. I know I won’t be waking up from a dream and in a shower or something. It’s not going to happen.
Crave Online: Are you practicing a great deathbed scene?
Bryan Cranston: When Walt dies, and I think that’s a good bet that he will die by the end of the show, it’s not going to be in bed. I can almost guarantee that. I don’t think he’s going to die of cancer.
Crave Online: Is it liberating to play a character you know will die when it’s all over?
Bryan Cranston: But would it be liberating then to play a human being? We don’t go through life going, “I’m going to die today” or “I’m going to die someday.” He loses track of it just like anyone else does. It’s not foremost on our minds until you’re sick and then you start thinking about it. And you realize that in my own personal philosophy, there’s nothing more important than good health. Love is not as important as good health. You cannot be in love if you’re not healthy. You can’t appreciate it. That’s all you can do.
Crave Online: Have you gotten healthy as a result of playing this role?
Bryan Cranston: That’s a great question. God, I wish I had an equally great answer. It’s funny, I do try to maintain health. I started doing Bikram yoga which is that hothouse yoga, the 105 degrees yoga for 90 minutes. It’s great, you purge out all the sweat and you’re drinking water. It was a great way for me to just help me completely relax.
Crave Online: Does it help to be bald for that?
Bryan Cranston: I’m telling you, until I shaved my head, I never realized how much heat is lost through the top of the head. I walk out in winter and it feels like I have an ice pack on my head. Unbelievable.
Crave Online: What hopes did you have for the show going in?
Bryan Cranston: When I talked to Vince [Gilligan] the first time, it was a 20 minute scheduled meeting and it ended up being an hour and a half. We went back and forth. What I was fascinated by, there were two things. The script itself of the pilot was a page turner and it’s rare. I’m sure other actors have told you that you don’t get pilot scripts and just go. You put it down, you pick it up, you put it down. This was I couldn’t stop it and I called right away and said, “Get me in on this. It’s unbelievable.” The other thing that struck me is that what he told me, he’s mentioned this before so it’s no secret, but I’ve never seen or heard of this in any series history. That is to take a character from one kind of person and over the course of the story, justifiably turn him, through a metamorphosis, into another person. So given an opportunity to tell our story in completion, five years, six years maybe, we will take Walter White from being the milquetoast, self oppressed science teacher to becoming a sometimes, often ruthless drug dealer, kingpin. Has anyone ever seen that?
Crave Online: Most shows couldn’t. House couldn’t get nice. Archie Bunker couldn’t get tolerant.
Bryan Cranston: Well, I think that’s the key word. It can’t happen suddenly. Everything has to be justified. If you can accept where my character has come to thus far and it’s justified, then just imagine then keep pushing that envelope, keep pushing the conditions that change a person. You talk about a mother with superhuman strength if her child was in danger. These are things that happen. Given a death sentence of a year to live, it changes you. It changes you and this man who is so depressed and for lack of taking chance or opportunities that he missed in his life, now has a pocketful of money which he never had before, adrenaline is pumping in his veins, he feels like a man. He’s got nothing to lose so these are natural changes in a person. Now, can that sustain? No. You can’t sustain on adrenaline. Yet this seems to be what’s happening. He feels that even feeling fear or anxiety is better than being numb. So he’s not resisting the changes. He’s welcoming the changes as they come. As abhorrent as they may be from time to time when he takes the time to analyze what exactly he’s doing to society, to his family, to himself, it doesn’t seem to outweigh the impact of what he’s going through personally.
Crave Online: Isn’t it all about the nest egg to leave it for his family?
Bryan Cranston: Right but after a while, it could change. Now what’s happened in the second season that you’ll see is that he’s been given more time than he initially thought. It’s not one year. He goes through a procedure that allows him maybe a few years. Now, he’s got the moral dilemma of oh, do I just go back to teaching now? Never mind what happened. What do you do? Well, you can’t go back. He’s a completely different man, so it creates a wonderful moral dilemma for the show to figure out. Then things start to happen that you go, “Yes, it’s for my family.” Well, it could get kind of self-righteous. It’s for my family I’m doing it, bang, it’s for my family. I’m killing for my family. As long as you can justify your actions, then any means is justifiable then, right?
Crave Online: He might want more than $700,000?
Bryan Cranston: I think he might find some justification or some manufactured need. No, no, I need more than that.
Crave Online: Is it kind of like Michael Corleone?
Bryan Cranston: Maybe. “I try to get out, I keep getting sucked back in.” Yeah, it’s very seductive. He’s never felt this before and so he’s being totally seduced by power, by corruption, by the sense of omnipotence almost. He can call his shots, people are afraid of him. It’s like wow, he’s never felt that before. It is seductive.
Crave Online: Does that come with the discovery that he can reinvent himself?
Bryan Cranston: It has to. It certainly was not in the cards when he was contemplating this decision, his first decision. He couldn’t have foreseen this change in his personality. He made this decision because he felt backed up against a wall. He had no choice.
Crave Online: Which role are you recognized most for: Malcolm, Breaking Bad, Seinfeld?
Bryan Cranston: Seinfeld is a lot and of course Malcolm is a lot. I was just in Egypt for two weeks on vacation in little bazaars around the city or something and Germans, Australians, Spanish, Italians and Brits, they were for different things. Whatever they were recognizing me for, I was like oh, that must be playing more in that country.
Crave Online: What do you prefer, comedy or drama?
Bryan Cranston: I probably enjoy performing comedy more just for the obvious reasons. If you’re laughing most of the time, that’s a lot of fun. Yet, I did a comedy for seven years and it was time not to do it and to hopefully look for a character. When I left Malcolm, my goal was to find something where I can get lost in another character. Probably the biggest compliment I can get is not, “I love your work” but “I can’t believe you’re the same guy from Malcolm in the Middle.” That to me is the end all.
Crave Online: Did you imagine finding that?
Bryan Cranston: No, and certainly there is no sense of deserving something like that, having two incredibly well written series that hopefully will become both successes.
Crave Online: Does this success change the way you think of yourself as an actor?
Bryan Cranston: No. Just like anyone, you want to live a well rounded existence, life. I was offered a couple comedies, playing dads when I left Malcolm and turned them down. The response was mostly, “Why would he turn it down? It’s perfect for him.” Then I go, “What you’re thinking is the exact reason why I have to turn this down,” because I don’t want to be the guy who does, “Oh, he’s doing another goofy dad.”
Crave Online: Your costar, Jane Kaczmarek, had to go play a bitchy judge.
Bryan Cranston: Well, she is one in real life so that’s actually… I’m teasing.
Crave Online: Does your deadpan ever get you in trouble?
Bryan Cranston: Yes. Yeah, of course. I was telling my daughter this a little while ago. I said, “Never be afraid of saying I’m sorry or I apologize.” I would rather have to apologize than to not take risks. It’s just not in my realm. Occasionally when you do take risks, and our business is inherently risky, so you’ll run that gamble. But it’s okay. You more than likely won’t make too many huge faux pas. Maybe a few here and there.
Cranston, AMC catch a good break with ‘Breaking Bad’
by Gary Levin, 8 March 2009 – USA TODAY
So to many of his fans, Breaking Bad seems a 180-degree turn. Actors “always love to play the bad guys because they’re the juiciest roles,” Cranston says. And lately, cable dramas have embraced the flawed antihero as more realistic.
“I wanted to go in a different direction. This was fantastically written, nuanced, just beautifully sculpted,” he says. “You have a character who has troubles, he’s trying, but his inability to function in certain areas is very honest, very human.”
In his long dues-paying career, Cranston had done dozens of less memorable drama stints. Some turned out better than others. He met his wife, actress Robin Dearden, while shooting a 1986 episode of Airwolf. (He was a criminal, she his crying hostage.) And he’d parlayed a guest role as a seemingly deranged bigot on an X-Files episode into his current gig: Both were written by Vince Gilligan, who remembered him years later when crafting Bad.
To his Malcolm co-star Jane Kaczmarek, the transition from comic sad sack Hal to the down-and-out everyman Walt is a natural: “He’s like Jack Lemmon, except now he’s doing Days of Wine and Roses or The Apartment.”
Gilligan says Cranston’s “bedrock humanity” and his ability to play very dark humor helped make a lying, desperate meth cooker relatable to an audience that might otherwise recoil. “Because he’s so decent and likable, Bryan allows you to comprehend why he does what he does, even if you don’t agree with it.”
It also helps explain why Cranston, nominated three times for Malcolm, claimed his first Emmy for Bad last fall. It also surprised him (and many others) to beat Jon Hamm, the media-darling star of AMC companion Mad Men, much as Bad’s ratings (a modest 1.4 million viewers) had topped Mad’s first-season 1.1 million.
“I was the dark horse,” he says. And though his wife was all sweaty-palmed, “I wasn’t nervous, because I wasn’t going to get it. It was a surreal moment.”
Malcolm creator Linwood Boomer says he was “not even a little bit surprised. It’s an extraordinarily difficult character (that) requires someone who’s really game and courageous in addition to being smart and insightful.”
The genesis of Walt
Gilligan, a laconic writer with a Southern drawl, dreamed up Bad a few years ago while musing with a TV-writer buddy about their next careers: “We should drive around in an RV and sell crystal meth,” he joked.
“As we were laughing about it, the image of a middle-aged guy (doing this) stuck with me. Not as a future life goal but as, ‘Man, who would this be?’ What if he weren’t a criminal but a straight-arrow guy, sort of boring, like myself? And this character just popped right into my head.”
(“Breaking bad,” a Southern expression, refers to someone who has gone wrong, who has veered off the normal path.)
Gilligan knew he wanted Cranston: “In my mind, he was integral to the role from a very early stage.” But it took some convincing for AMC. And the show itself was no easy sell, thanks to fears it would glorify meth, a damaging, addictive drug that ravages many towns.
“There was a lot of initial concern about the subject matter,” says Zack Van Amburg, programming president at Sony Pictures Television, who’d pitched the show to “every major cable network” and eventually developed it at FX, which later passed.
“They (all) said, ‘Could we change the nature of who Walter White is? Could he maybe rob some banks? Could he be involved with a different drug?’ ”
But AMC embraced the weirdness, and picked up the show around the same time it gave the go-ahead to stylish period drama Mad Men, which premiered six months earlier.
Both shows “have created a new relevance for AMC,” known previously mostly for its old movies, says general manager Charlie Collier. Now it’s packaging movies around them: A “March Badness” stunt, hosted by Cranston and co-star Aaron Paul, groups like-minded films with stars such as Clint Eastwood.
To lure newcomers, Bad’s first season is just out on DVD, and both recaps and stand-alone “minisodes” are on AMC’s website and Sony’s Crackle.com. Cranston also wrote and directed Last Chance, a romantic TV movie in which he stars with Dearden, airing Saturday (11 p.m. ET/8 PT) on AMC sibling WE.
Acting was ‘like nirvana’
Cranston had an unlikely career path. Raised in Canoga Park, Calif., a nondescript L.A. suburb, he tasted acting at 8 in a United Way commercial his dad produced. But he enrolled in a nearby community college to pursue a very different path.
“I was going to be a cop,” he says. He worked nights as a security guard at a gated community, nabbed shoplifters at a Hollywood market and was briefly a bodyguard for Alfred Hitchcock (“not a very nice man”).
But an elective acting class changed his mind. “This was like nirvana; I just saw the mountain,” he says. Cranston worked as an extra, did more ads and voice-over work, and got his first big break in 1983 with a role on ABC soap Loving. He spent the next dozen years as a journeyman guest star, highlighted by those Seinfeld episodes in which Whatley regifted a labelmaker, dated Elaine and converted to Judaism.
He was the last actor cast for Malcolm, on the day before the pilot episode was filmed. “They were looking for a big fat hairy guy, and they had every fat hairy guy in California come in,” Kaczmarek says. “Nothing clicked.”
So they cast him anyway, and he made a startling entrance for a memorable scene in which Lois shaves Hal’s back. “It’s the first day, he’s meeting everybody, and he’s naked with yak hair being glued all over his body,” she recalls. In later episodes, he’d gamely be slathered with blue paint, and thousands of live bees.
Boomer says Hal was “the one character in Malcolm not written ahead of time, that was as much created by Bryan as me.”
The show was an instant smash, with more than 20 million viewers. When Malcolm called it quits in 2006, Cranston was offered two pilots calling for silly, offbeat dads, which he promptly declined. “I don’t know another way to do that.”
Bad means good for his career, even though he’s spending almost half the year on set in Albuquerque, away from Dearden and their daughter, Taylor, 16. “It’s definitely opened some doors already,” Cranston says. “I’m just on the radar more.”
The unpretty repercussions
The seven-episode first season (shortened by the writers’ strike) focused on Walt’s cancer diagnosis and his desperate decision to seek a sideline drug business.
The next 13 focus on the repercussions, and they aren’t pretty. “He is absolutely beside himself,” Cranston says. “In his world as a scientist, it all makes sense. There are mathematical answers for everything, there’s order. But you get outside the doors of his classroom, and everything goes upside down. He’s dealing with these horrible thugs and murderers, and he can’t hold onto the tiger. He doesn’t have the skill set.”
His DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank, on the hunt for the meth dealer known only as “Heisenberg,” is closing in. Walt’s motivation — providing the $737,000 in drug money he figures his family will need — is now jeopardized. And Jesse, Walt’s partner, is in over his head and distracted by love.
“While Walt becomes more and more comfortable in his own newly minted criminal skin, Jesse is finding himself less and less comfortable, and Walt won’t let him quit,” Gilligan says.
“We’re getting into a deeper, more dangerous part of this drug world, and Jesse’s never experienced that,” says Paul, who plays Jesse. “He’s just been totally OK selling dime bags and doesn’t need this rich lifestyle. But Walt needs to act fast; he needs his nest egg for his family when he’s gone, so he takes risks, and he’s getting the wrong people upset.”
Can a show about a drug-dealing terminal-cancer patient last? Gilligan has paced himself, plot-wise: Both last season and the new one take place in the space of a few months. And AMC’s Collier, though waiting for a formal greenlight, is counting on a third season early next year. “If M*A*S*H can make the Korean War last 11 years, we can keep Walt around a long time.”
Still, Gilligan says, “it feels like there’s a certain inevitability at the core of it.” But although the cancer is terminal, “there’s a lot of ways to check out in this life,” he says. “When you choose to become a drug kingpin, that greatly increases the scenarios.”
Cranston has his own idea, with apologies to Newhart: “I wake up from this bad dream and Jane Kaczmarek is lying next to me and I say, ‘Oh, my God, I had this horrible dream that I was this chemistry teacher.’ And she says, ‘Hal, get back to work!’ “
Go Inside Breaking Bad
by Eric Goldman, 5 March 2009 – IGN
We talk to Bryan Cranston and Vince Gilligan about Season 2 of the acclaimed series – and Cranston’s contribution to the Power Rangers.
One of last year’s best new series, Breaking Bad, is about to debut its second season on AMC this weekend. If you haven’t seen the show, you’re missing out on something special, as the series follows the story of Walt White (Bryan Cranston), an overqualified high school chemistry teacher. When Walt finds out he has terminal lung cancer, he makes a dramatic decision, teaming with former student Jesse (Aaron Paul) in order to use his scientific skills to make and distribute meth.
Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Cranston and Breaking Bad’s creator, Vince Gilligan, for a conversation about the series. When Cranston found out I was from IGN, he mentioned the fact that we’d named him Best Actor in our IGN Best of 2008 awards. Cranston, who won a well-deserved Emmy for his role as Walt, jokingly teased me over the fact that we didn’t have a physical award to give him, exclaiming, “When do I get the award? This is bulls**t!”
During the conversation that followed Cranston and Gilligan discussed what it’s like working together on Breaking Bad, Cranston taking the reins as director for the season premiere, and the acclaimed actor’s strange connection to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
IGN TV: When you’re on a hit show like Malcolm in the Middle, it’s great to have the success, but unfortunately you can also get very easily pigeonholed. Vince, when you were coming up with Breaking Bad, when did Bryan come on your radar?
Vince Gilligan: He was on my radar before I even thought of the show. He starred in an episode of The X-Files [“Drive”] I wrote about ten years back. Bryan is a chameleon, and I mean that in the best possible sense. This is a guy, who when he came and read for us for that X-Files episode, I was like, “I’ve never seen that guy before. Where’s this guy been hiding? This guy’s great!” And then they said, “Well, he was the guy with one arm who gave Tom Hanks his orders in Saving Private Ryan and sent him on a mission. He played Buzz Aldrin in From the Earth to the Moon. He’s the dentist on Seinfeld.” I was going, “What? That’s not the same guy!” He’s a chameleon, and that’s the best thing you can say about an actor. A lot of them aren’t. A lot of actors just play themselves over and over again, which can be find if they’re interesting to begin with. But that’s the mark of a real actor, in my opinion.
He was on my radar because I wanted to work with him again ever since that episode. And lo and behold, I got my chance, very briefly after I came up with the idea of this character. I started to think, “Well, who would be the right guy for this?” And very shortly, I thought, “Bryan Cranston. I want to work with this guy again.” Because he can be dramatic as hell, he can be funny as hell, and he’s got this deep, abiding humanity that just pours out of him, whether he means for it to or not. You’ve gotta like this guy Walt, because he’s making a lot of bad decisions. You’ve got to get the audience to go with him on this journey – on this really ill-advised journey that he’s taking. He’s cooking crystal meth and people have to buy into it and not necessarily like what he’s doing, but understand why he’s doing it. You need that humanity and basic likability and Bryan’s got the whole package.
IGN: Bryan, what did you think initially? I’d imagine your interest would be piqued even by the basic description.
Bryan Cranston: From the first page… [Cranston gets up and goes to his bag, pulling out a script] I brought this in, because I want Vince to write something terribly meaningful on this script.
Gilligan: Oh, wow!
Cranston: This is the script that I first read when I came in. When you read the first page… “The Winnebago zooms past. Inside, you see a driver’s knuckles clinging… his eyes bug wide. He’s wearing underpants.” Right? So I’m going, “What the f**k is this?!” And I keep reading, “Behind him are breakers, beakers, flasks. Some kind of chemical spills on the floor, yellow liquid. Two dead bodies…” And I’m going, “What the hell is going on?”
IGN: You’re thinking, “Another one of these shows?”
Cranston: Yeah, exactly. Same old thing… [Laughs] So it provoked me. It challenged you to go to the next page. And you have this [description] on Walter White and who this person is and what’s going on and he’s full of emotion… and that’s the end of the teaser. It’s like, what’s next? What’s going to happen? It is that proverbial page turner. I got to the very last page and I closed it and called my agents and said “Get me in to see Vince Gilligan!”
IGN: You could have taken a lot of different tactics with Walt, like having a voice over for instance, to try to directly explain his actions. Instead, I love that we understand that the guy has cancer and is trying to take care of his family, but it’s a little bit ambiguous for people to figure out what drives him to such extremes in these circumstances.
Gilligan: If I’d written this ten years ago, I would have done it that way. I think you naturally, no matter what your line of work is, as an actor or writer or whatever you do for a living, I think if you’re doing your job and learning every day, you become more competent in your abilities. You always know there’s more you could do and there’s a better way you could do it. Ten years back I would have thought, “I better spell this out a little more. I’m a little scared of this guy. Is he likable enough, no matter who’s playing him? Is he a good enough guy and will the audience go with him on this trip? Do I need more extenuating circumstances? Does he have a mother in an iron lung who’s about to get evicted from her house? Do I have to give more reasons why we should like this guy and do I need to explain more about why he does what he does?”
I’m glad I wrote it now instead of ten years ago, because I would have f**ked it up back then. And also, I learned a lot from watching The Sopranos, for instance. A show that had the courage to present a guy who’s not always likable, to say the least, and not say why he necessarily does what he does at every step of the way. There’s a lot of good motion pictures or television of the last ten or fifteen years, where not every i is doted and not ever t is crossed. Not every action they take is spelled out and I realized those were sort of trailblazers and allowed me to see you can tell a story that way. You don’t have to worry at every moment whether or not the character will be liked or understood.
Cranston: When movies or television shows do that, it has a tendency to try to defend the character’s actions at every turn – when they’re explaining too much, you know? And it’s almost a defensive stance. It’s not necessary and usually less compelling if you’re saying, “Well, yes, he steals, but he’s stealing because…” The way [Vince] carefully dispenses information… and you’re waiting for more and he’s putting it out there and making the audience reach and pay attention. That’s brilliant writing, when you dangle something out there – “You want to see this?” and make the audience participate, as opposed to just being in that mode, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” It’s when you’re actually actively involved in the storytelling, is when you’ve got them.
IGN: Here’s the requisite question for the creator of a serialized drama – how much did you plan ahead where you want to go? You have the ticking clock of his mortality…
Gilligan: I’m trying to think how I want to answer that…
Cranston: Try truthfully.
Gilligan: [Laughs] I’d love to say I had the whole thing mapped out from day one. And that’s safer. There’s a comfort level if you know where you’re going. There’s always a comfort level. You get in your car and know you’re going to California. But it’s more fun to meander around the countryside and find out where it is you’re going. We’re trying to do a little bit of both. I have a rough destination in my mind, but we’re taking a lot of side roads along the way. Certain things happen logistically that make us change plans. For instance, this season coming up, Jesse has to move out of his house, simply because the homeowner of the house we shoot in decided to sell the house. So we’ve got those kind of logistical things, and then we have other things that come up because my writers come up with a better idea than I had. Or [Bryan] will call me up and say, “Hey, what if you did this?” I go, “Oh yeah, that’s a good idea!” So it’s less of a comfort zone to be in, when you don’t quite know exactly where you’re going, but it’s more exciting.
Cranston: It’s also like life.
Gilligan: It’s also like life. That’s the best answer.
Cranston: We really don’t know where our lives are going. We have an idea. We don’t really know.
IGN: The clips we’ve seen show that Walt’s actions are causing even bigger rifts with his family. Can you talk a bit more about Season 2 and how it progresses?
Gilligan: The clips are good, but what you don’t see is the humor. We had plenty of humor in Season 1 and we have a lot more in Season 2. This is a season with a lot of fun stuff and humorous moments and a lot of very dramatic, heavy moments too. A little bit of everything. A really interesting bouillabaisse of drama and comedy. God bless the folks who liked Season 1. If they liked Season 1, they’re going to love Season 2. Season 2’s got some big, big plot moments that happen. The ending of the season is pretty big and we’ve got some fun stuff along the way. It’s sort of the season where chickens come home to roost in my opinion. My writers and I always talked about, all through the season, that the chickens are coming home to roost for Walter White. He is a guy who has made a very out there decision – a very questionable decision about what he is going to do with the last 18 months of his life and he decides to cook crystal meth. Now, this act of criminality he’s embarked upon, this life of criminality, is baring strange fruit. That’s what Season 2 is about, in a nutshell, without giving too much away.
IGN: Bryan, are you constantly in awe of the places your character and his story goes?
Cranston: It’s like opening a present when we get the scripts. The general feeling is that we know well ahead of time. I really don’t know. What I do know is that we’re in capable hands. There’s an acting exercise, when you first start acting – it’s a trust exercise where you fall back and you’re caught by your partner. It’s all geared towards trusting the person you’re with. So when you’re onstage, trust that they’re there. We’re making eye contact. I know you’re going to be there for me. I’m here for you and we can get through this and we can listen and respond. And that’s the same thing that’s happened here. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I trust that he will create the environment that will make it justifiable where we go. Otherwise, it would be like murdering his own child.
Gilligan: It would be.
Cranston: It would be just unfathomable to be able to do that to your own creation, and so I trust that. Now that doesn’t mean that every step of the way, we understand. But when we get to that point where we’re thinking “Oh, what?” we talk about it. It’s alive and it moves and so there might be one line that might take me off into a different area, that when explained to him he might go, “Oh, I see where that goes. Yeah, let’s take that out.” So we take it out and it’s like, “Oh, that’s better!” Often, an actor doesn’t know what you’re hitching on, as I call it. You’re hanging up on something. It’s not flowing and something’s hitching and until you locate where that burr is, that pang – “Oh, there it is! There’s that splinter!” – then you can go on. It’s a great experience.
Gilligan: The other side of that trust Bryan speaks of is my writers and I trust that when we give a script to Bryan and the other actors, no matter how shaded and delicate a series of emotions they’re asked to play, they’ll pull it off – without having to explain in dialogue what it is they’re feeling. You don’t have to explain everything going on. People say the opposite of what they’re feeling or don’t say at all what they’re feeling and you just infer it through their behavior and what they do or don’t do. You’re always going to be biased towards your own TV show. Everyone is going to say, “I have the best cast on TV!” Luckily for me, we in fact do.
Cranston: It’s documented!
Gilligan: It’s provable mathematically.
IGN: IGN says so.
Cranston: IGN says so! It must be true.
IGN: You guys have this great collaboration. What was it like shifting that dynamic a bit when Bryan directed the Season 2 premiere?
Cranston: It was great. At the end of Season 1, I waited for several months to see if I still wanted to do it. Because I wanted to see what the experience was, the working relationship, the conditions and that sort of thing. And then, as I knew it was getting close to plan Season 2, I called Vince and told him what I’d like to do. I wanted to get his feeling on it and he…
Gilligan: “What the f**k?!”
Cranston: And he said no, and then I pointed out a small clause in my contract that nobody knew and I said, “It’s right there! It has to happen!” No, to be honest with both of you, I don’t want to impose. I want to direct if I’m wanted. I don’t want to because we have to. I want it to be a mutual desire. And it worked out really well. I enjoyed it. My feeling as a director in TV, and I’ve done a lot actually, for beginning just a few years ago – my goal is to get the showrunner as close to what he or she was hoping for. I know it’s not going to stay in the [same] state as my director’s cut. I have no delusions of that. But my goal is to get it close enough so that it’s not “What the f**k is this? We have to start from the beginning and assemble some kind of story.” And that has a lot of prep. You’ve got to prep. A lot of questions… You could say, “Yeah, it’s a big sandwich.” Well, big to me could be different than you. What’s big? It’s a subjective viewpoint. So I try to ask the questions – “how big are you thinking? Four inches?” – just so we’re on the same wavelength.
Gilligan: That sounds very Freudian when you put it that way. A big sandwich…
Cranston: [Laughs] A big sandwich. Especially when I say, “are we talking big like four inches big? Because that’s big.”
IGN: Could Walt’s wife process what he’s done if she found everything out?
Gilligan: Well, that’s a good question.
Cranston: It’s a very good question. No one’s asked that before, and I’m glad you ask that, because she’s an integral part of the show and a very bright woman and it’s Walt’s dire worry. That’s the thing that’s most on his frontal lobe is “She can’t find out, she can’t find out.” Because, quite frankly, I’m not a good provider. I’m kind of moody and kind of quiet and antisocial. I’m not a bad father, but there’s a lot of problems there. The thing I think she thinks of me is that I’m honorable. And if I lose that, I’ve lost everything, meaning I’ve lost her. So she can never find out. As far as I’m concerned, I, Walt, she can never find out what’s happening. Of course, that may not be the case. But that’s how he feels.
Gilligan: Without giving anything away, I can say that you ask a very good question and it’s one that we talked about in the writers’ room for hours and hours on end. What if? That’s all we do all day long. What if, what if… One of the man things I love about this show is that there are so many juicy possibilities. It doesn’t mean we’ll explore all of them, although I’d like to, but I think there’s a near infinite number of possibilities we could explore. And we’re going to explore some fun ones. We do this season and I want to continue in Season 3 and just make it as juicy as possible, but as real as possible too – emotionally real and emotionally true. And it sure helps to have great actors too, to keep you honest in that regard.
IGN: Bryan, I was looking at your IMDB credits and it’s a long and impressive list, but there’s one I just have to ask about it, because it jumped out at me, which was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Gilligan: You were on that? How did that suit fit?
Cranston: [Laughs] Well, I was younger then.
One of my jobs as a young actor starting out was voiceover. I also did dubbing. A lot of dubbing and a lot of voiceover. So foreign films would come in and I’d go in. One of the places that did a lot of that was Saban Entertainment. And they would take movies and then cartoons from all over the world and we’d go and do the English dub. And the Power Rangers came in and I did some voices for that. I had already been there for a number of years, just as a freelance guy coming in and coming out. And it paid like $50.00 an hour, which was fantastic. And you’d work two, three hours at least a day. So I had been there for awhile already and then the Power Rangers came in. They actually named one of the Power Rangers after me.
Cranston: The Blue Power Ranger’s last name is Cranston.
IGN: [Laughs] Wow, that’s pretty funny.
Gilligan: That’s an awesome story!
Cranston: He’s the fey one, that’s the problem.
Bryan Cranston: This dad stops at nothing on ‘Breaking Bad’
12 March 2009 – readingeagle.com
Watch out, Al Pacino. Bryan Cranston is on his way to becoming a new generation’s Scarface.
Last fall Cranston won an Emmy Award as best actor for his performance in “Breaking Bad,” the AMC series about Walt White, a mild-mannered chemistry teacher who decides to make and sell crystal meth. His motivation: He has terminal lung cancer and his family needs big money.
The second season began Sunday; the story line will get even darker.
“Walt is getting deeper and deeper into his new lifestyle,” Cranston said by telephone from his Los Angeles office. “He’s already killed a couple people, and to deal with that he’s putting on blinders. His wife gets closer to the truth, as does his brother-in-law, the DEA agent.”
Cranston came into the show already a familiar face on television: He played Malcolm’s father, Hal, on “Malcolm in the Middle” (2000-2006) and Jerry Seinfeld’s nitrous-oxide-addicted dentist in five episodes of “Seinfeld” (1994-1997).
“Breaking Bad,” however, shows a new, virtually unrecognizable side of the actor.
“I had to check my ego at the door,” said Cranston, who turned 53 this week. “I didn’t recognize myself when I saw the pilot. I thought I was looking at my dad.
“I basically designed Walt,” he said. “I wanted him to be heavier, with love handles. He’s pudgy and pasty, and his skin and clothes are colorless. He has a little, impotent mustache and glasses. He’s hiding. And his hair has no shape or color to it.”
Cranston eagerly uglified himself because he saw enormous potential in the character.
“Vince Gilligan, who created ‘Breaking Bad,’ told me that over the course of the series he wanted to take Walt from Mr. Chips to Scarface,” he recalled. “Vince said, ‘I want this character to change from a milquetoast to a drug kingpin.’ I was fascinated. I’d never seen a lead actor on TV completely change who he is.”
And when he says “Scarface,” he definitely means Pacino in the 1983 version, not Paul Muni in 1932. For Cranston, Pacino’s performance is a touchstone.
“Every guy I know is a fan of ‘Scarface,’ ” he said. “It was brutal and eye-opening, and he was over the top. Omigod, it was like an accident. You couldn’t take your eyes off him.”
Cranston has been acting for three decades, and hopes that “Breaking Bad” has a long run.
“It’s going to take five or six years to completely tell the story of the metamorphosis of this character,” he said. “With ‘Malcolm’ we did seven years, 151 episodes. There was a lot of talk about an eighth year, but artistically it didn’t reach the point where we had more to explore.”
Hal and Walt, the characters for whom Cranston is best known today, seem to have little in common, but the actor has found two similarities.
“They both wear tighty-whitey underwear,” he said. “But, more than that, they’re Everymen, trying to do the best they can despite their flaws.
“Hal was a fearful man,” he continued. “He was afraid of losing his job, losing his wife, of not being a good father. That translated to fear of heights, fear of everything. For comedic purposes it worked out well.
“Walt is not afraid,” Cranston said. “He’s numb. He’d been stuck in an emotionless chamber and didn’t know how to get out of it. It was the result of missed opportunities. There were years of depression and malaise. The irony is that the diagnosis of terminal lung cancer propels him out of his rut.
“He’s now thrown into this world that he doesn’t have a skill set for,” Cranston said. “He’s a man of science. Everything has a reason, a formula, a mathematical explanation, but not the world he’s finding himself in now. It’s filled with really bad people, terrible intentions, egos and greed. But he’s already gone past the point of no return.”
Cranston could be the Everyman of actors. He grew up in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley in an acting family, and has been married for two decades to actress Robin Dearden, with whom he has a 15-year-old daughter, Taylor.
For much of his three-decade career, he has flown under the radar.
“Maybe it’s my fault for not having a plan,” he said. “Recognition is a wonderful byproduct of my chosen profession. But I just thought, ‘If I could make a living as an actor, and that’s all I had to do, what great joy that would bring.’
“I remember going to studios as a kid,” Cranston said. “The newness of it, the spectacle of it, wasn’t there for me when I started becoming an actor. I accepted that it was a business long ago.”
When Cranston was 8, his father cast him in a United Way commercial he was producing.
A ‘Breaking Bad’ Q&A: In the bedroom with Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn
by Josh Gajewski, 28 April 2009 – latimes.com
“Breaking Bad” seems to be working on a different level than in the show’s first season, and one of the key reasons has been the relationship between Walter and Skyler White emerging into one of the more compelling marriages on television. While the pregnant Skyler mostly played dumb to Walt’s odd behavior in Season 1 and always proved sympathetic above anything else, this season she just isn’t taking it anymore.
In the Season 2 premiere, for instance, she berated him for getting too physical with her in the kitchen. He’d just returned home from seeing a man beaten to death, and was so emotionally charged from the event that he found himself wanting to hold her … and then suddenly much more. Like a dog in heat, he pressed her up against the refrigerator and, when things grew more violent, she was forced to push him away. “You cannot take it out on me,” she later yelled.
The third episode ended with the click of a lamp. Skyler had just asked her husband if he had a second cellphone, a concept he denied, and when Walt went in for the goodnight kiss, she simply turned away from him and clicked off the lamp on her side of the bed. She knew he was lying, and now he knew she knew it as well.
No sympathy for the dying.
During a visit to the “Breaking Bad” set last summer, Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn joined me for a chat in that very bedroom. They were between scenes, and as the crew set up for a shot in the kitchen, Cranston and Gunn sat beside each other on their TV bed, traded some sarcastic jabs and spoke about playing house.
The following is an edited version of the chat:
Gunn: I think it’s pretty clear at the end of the first season that Skyler, she’s been wondering what’s going on. She knows about the cancer and attributes much of Walter’s behavior to that. But stuff keeps happening that’s odd and she’s got more questions. A lot more questions.
Are you glad to see her grow stronger in Season 2?
Gunn: Yeah! And sometimes it was frustrating and I wanted to jump up and go, “My God! Ask a question, Skyler!” But I’m happy about it because I think she’s really a keen, smart person and people who are married for a while get to kind of know things about each other – unspoken things. And, you know, illness, if that’s presented, you can say “OK, you know what? That’s got to be huge.” So the strange behavior, OK, but then after awhile, if it continues . . .
Are you guys feeling more comfortable with each other as an on-screen couple?
Gunn: Yeah, I’ve never really liked Bryan. [turns to him] Oh hi!
Cranston: True story: I auditioned all the Skylers, and while I didn’t remember her name, when I talked to Vince [Gilligan] after . . .
Gunn: Yes you did. Come on, you Googled . . .
Cranston: . . . Vince said, [busts into his Gilligan impersonation, a higher pitch with a twang] “Well, what do you think?” I said, “I don’t remember her name, but the blond I liked.”
Lot of brunettes, I take it?
Cranston: There were a couple of redheads, I believe a brunette, and like a dishwater blond I think . . .
Gunn: So he said, “That, you know, remarkably blond blond.”
Cranston: But it worked. She just dove right in and it’s always a little odd because it’s a facsimile of a relationship at that point. You don’t know each other, you just met. But if you’ve been doing it awhile and you’re able to just jump in, that’s what we wanted. And what was the first thing I said to you? “I hope you’re sane,” something like that?
Gunn: Yeah, you said, “I hope you’re normal.” I said, “I hope you’re normal.”
[Cranston gets summoned away by the crew]
Anna, where would you like to see this season go?
Gunn: I’d love to see more of who Skyler is in her private moments, in her personal moments that are not necessarily related to the illness of her husband. Because so much of her stuff last year was about concern over Walt. And, you know, I’d really like to see the things that she might be keeping to herself. I’d like to dig deeper into who she is and I’d love to see some different colors in terms of her emotions. I mean, she had the patience of almost a saint last year, she really did. And I think this year we’re going to see her not going down that road.
Did you have discussions with Vince in the off-season?
Cranston [returning]: More like demands. …
Gunn: Not a lot. To me, I trust the direction he goes in. I think he knows when things need to unravel. But I did have a few thoughts on things and I did express them. He’s really open to them . . . and then he discards them [smiles].
Cranston: In fact, one of his catch phrases when he hears something that he doesn’t like is, “Oh, that’s real interesting!” And that’s when I go, “Oh, he hates it.”
What does he say when he actually likes an idea?
Cranston: He goes, “I like that!” [in Cranston’s impersonation, this sounds like “Eye LIIKE that!”]
Can you point to a note he liked enough to put in?
Gunn: We talked about Skyler having a talent, and I felt strongly that she should sort of have to work at something, or have a passion. And he said, “What would she do?” I just saw her as a writer, the way she expressed herself, the fact that she’s at home – I thought, that would make sense to me. And what was set up in the pilot was the fact that Walt’s working very hard as a teacher and he also has to have a second job at the car wash, so my thing was, in this day and age, if her older son is at school – and yeah, she’s pregnant, but pregnant people work and do stuff all the time – I thought, you know, I want to make sure that it doesn’t seem like Skyler’s at home eating bonbons and doing her nails. So at least it’s in there that she’s trying to do something, even if her line of work isn’t something you can’t always count on. You have to get published as a writer. [note: Skyler ultimately got a job this season, returning to work as an accountant.]
What kind of stuff does Skyler write?
Gunn: Short stories. And I myself am a short story lover so that’s something I want at some point to show up on the bedside table [points to it]. You know, I’ve only got pregnancy books here. So at any rate, I think that’s what she works on. And maybe she has an idea for a novel.
Any ideas on if Skyler were to “break bad,” what she might do?
Gunn: [smiles] Yeah, I really do.
Anything you can share?
Gunn: Nooo [laughs]. Yeah, I do have a lot and I’ve mentioned a few of them to Vince and he said, “Oh, that’s real interesting!” [they laugh]
How much do your characters stay with you? When you leave the set, are you constantly thinking about them?
Cranston: There is a natural digression of character that happens when I take my makeup off, take off these clothes. It seems to shed it, and then I go home and I pick up my personal life. But when you’re alone and you’re reading through a new script – and I like to read a script at night, in quiet – I dream about it, and I welcome the dream, because things do come to me and they seep into me, whether it’s a different way of saying something or whatever. The thing is, playing this out is like reading a good novel. And every week we get to read the next few chapters. You know the feeling when you’re reading a good book and you can’t wait to get home? It’s like a little secret you have with just yourself, and at that moment in time, it’s just you and that novel. We’re playing this out. I too don’t really need or want to know too far into the future, because it could only negatively inform what you’re doing now. You know what I mean? Same thing with researching cancer. You know, that question’s been asked, and I just, I don’t really want to. I want to let my character discover it.
Gunn: And that’s true about reading it. When you first read it it’s so important because it’s where your intuition goes, because right when you’re reading a book, you start creating a vision of a character, and when you’re reading this script, your first instinct, that’s usually the best. Sometimes not, but usually. And then, yeah, things start to crystallize at night when you’re going to bed.
Cranston: For an actor, the better something is written, the less work we have to do because it just naturally comes to you. You don’t have to think, “Well, how am I going to make this real?” You don’t have to worry about that because they’ve done the work, the guide posts are all there, and you just have to go from one thing to the next. It just kind of seeps into you, you know?
Gunn: My daughter was here yesterday, and I think it was the first time that she sort of got it that mom plays this person that’s different. And she says, “Mommy, how do you talk? How do you know what to do?” And I thought about what to say and I said, “You know, I have a story to tell, and I’m just trying to tell the story.”
Cranston: For me, the truth is that [Anna] makes me so unhappy, that this role just comes naturally to me.